Vascular disease used to be called “hardening of the arteries.” Today it is called atherosclerosis. This disorder is caused by the deposit of fatty plaque along the interior of arteries and veins in the body. Vascular disease can affect many different parts of the body, including the heart, brain and legs. Vascular disease is extremely serious and may lead to stroke, heart attack and blood clots. Patients with vascular disease are often treated with a combination of medication, change of diet and exercise.
According to NetDoctor, a small amount of vascular plaque does not usually cause any symptoms in the heart. Cardiovascular disease is more often discovered when a person experiences mild chest pain when they exercise. This is called angina. Another symptom is a complete blockage of a heart vein and the muscle surrounding the blockage dies. Often this leads to a heart attack.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a vascular disease in which the arteries and veins of the legs have developed plaque blockages. According to NetDoctor, symptoms of PAD include cramping in the legs upon exertion. The pain usually resolves after resting the legs. However, advanced PAD may result in constant pain. Additionally, the legs may develop ulcers or sores, and left unattended, the ulcers may become infected and gangrenous.
Cerebrovascular Disease (Brain)
According to University Health System, San Antonio, when there are blockages in the brain caused by the build-up of plaque, the results can be stroke, small mini-strokes and vision problems. As the plaque grows and becomes a blockage, a person with this condition may experience speech loss, weakness in the legs or arms or paralysis. In many cases, when a doctor listens to the veins leading up to the brain, they can hear abnormalities in the pulses.
Treatment for vascular disease largely falls on maintaining or starting a healthy lifestyle and habits. These include exercise and eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and avoiding red meats, whic are high in fat, and choosing instead fish and poultry meats. According to NetDoctor, smoking is one of the highest risk factors to developing vascular disease, so stopping smoking (or not starting in the first place) is a primary factor in preventing vascular disease from developing.
According to University Health System, San Antonio, there are numerous treatment modalities available for individuals with vascular disease. Treatments may range from recommending changes in the diet and increasing or beginning exercise to moderately invasive treatments such as placing a vascular stent to open a blocked artery or vein. In severe cases, a surgical bypass may be necessary to address blocked arteries, particularly in the heart. Medication may also be prescribed to help blood flow more easily and to reduce the build-up of plaque on artery and vein walls.